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Latin America’s Reply To Europe

People across the globe enjoyed arguably the most tense and spectacular FIFA World Cup final between Argentina and France on December 18, 2022, after long years. In Qatar, Lionel Andrés Messi (b. June 24, 1987) showed why he is invaluable to Argentina even at the age of 35. Not only Argentinian or Latin American, but world football, too, shines with such a player. The most important thing is the way he kept his cool throughout the nerve-wracking match… during the 90 minutes, then in the extra-time, and also during the tie-breaker. During those 120 minutes, the prolific scorer and creative playmaker did not allow football fans to realise the fact that he was playing a gut-wrenching and, at times, breath-taking final.

The award list of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, too, is an interesting one. While Messi won the Best Player award, French forward Kylian Mbappé Lottin (b. December 20, 1998) became the top scorer, and Argentine custodian Damián Emiliano Martínez (b. September 2, 1992) snatched the prize of Best Goalkeeper. Their nominations cannot be disagreed with. One should actually thank football for such a beautiful gift. The final match was emotional, as well as exciting, for sports-lovers worldwide. During the month-long event, people witnessed a number of unexpected results. However, the final was played between the two best teams.

The victory of Argentina will certainly be an inspiration for the entire Latin America. It may be noted that Brazil was the last country from the region to win the FIFA World Cup two decades ago… in 2002. Argentina’s success will make all Latin American countries more confident in the coming years. Nowadays, foreign coaches are quite popular. However, Lionel Sebastián Scaloni (b. May 16, 1978) is an Argentine. He did not have much experience when he took charge of his national squad as a coach in 2018. Scaloni showed that coach from foreign lands does not matter, as any efficient person can get his job done. So far, he has guided his nation to win three big tournaments. In a sense, the victory of Argentina over France in the final of the World Cup should be considered as Latin America’s answer to Europe.

Latin America, consisting of just 12 countries, has won 10 FIFA World Cups so far, while Europe (where there are 44 countries) has won 12. Ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the majority of experts had claimed that European coaches would create troubles for the Latin American teams. However, Messi, Ángel Fabián Di María (b February 14, 1988), Scaloni and their Argentina have proven those experts wrong. Neighbouring Brazil, too, can learn a lesson from Argentina’s success. Argentina have reminded us that every continent has its own school. Brazil should keep this in mind while appointing their next coach.

The final of any major tournament has always been a 50-50 game. However, no one could have imagined that it would be such a delightful match to watch. One team had Messi, and the other had Mbappé. And these two characters showed how important they are to football fans. Argentina held a comfortable 2-0 lead until the 80th minute, courtesy of a Messi penalty and a sublime team goal finished by Di María in the first half. At that time, it seemed that whatever fell in front of Argentina would be bulldozed out. However, Mbappé converted from the spot and finished a sumptuous volley in a span of two minutes to take the game to extra time. Messi’s Argentina took control of the game once again in the first half of extra time. The GOAT (as Messi rightfully deserves this honour) once again put Argentina in front in the 108th minute; however, Mbappé kept his cool from the penalty spot once more to send the final encounter to a penalty shootout. Perhaps, the God of Football has written a different script for Leo. By the way, who would raise questions after seeing the World Cup glittering in Messi’s hands?

The world witnessed a spectacular final, followed by Messi’s dreams come true moment. In such an atmosphere, other important characters were lost after the thrilling encounter. One of them was Martínez. One should not forget that Martínez’s faithful hands helped Messi fulfill his dream at the end of his career. It has been a long time since a goalkeeper seemed quite confident during a tiebreaker. It also seemed that he could block all the shots. Many custodians decide which direction to jump even before a shot is being taken during tiebreaker. Martínez did not do that. He moved only after French players kicked the ball. Martínez’s French counterpart Hugo Hadrien Dominique Lloris (b. December 26, 1986) tried to predict which direction the ball would come. Hence, he got no opportunity to move in the right direction. Otherwise, Lloris could have blocked at least two shots.

It would have been the perfect outcome had either Argentina or France won the World Cup. Argentina made a strong comeback after losing their opening match against Saudi Arabia. Their fans strongly supported the team throughout the tournament. France Coach Didier Claude Deschamps (b. October 15, 1968) is a fearless person. Even before the World Cup, he had come to know that Karim Mostafa Benzema (b. December 19, 1987), Paul Labile Pogba (b. March 15, 1993) and N’Golo Kanté (b. March 29, 1991) would miss the mega event. Still, he managed to take France to the final.

During the final against Argentina, Deschamps made a number of great changes in order to increase the speed of his team, putting Argentina under counter pressure. As Olivier Jonathan Giroud (b. September 30, 1986) and Masour Ousmane Dembélé (b. May 15, 1997) struggled to maintain their class against Argentina, their coach replaced them with others. Although Antoine Griezmann (b. March 21, 1991) played well throughout the tournament, he failed to perform in the final. Hence, Mbappé did not get enough passes. The scenario changed immediately after Deschamps replaced Griezmann with a substitute player, as Mbappé scored twice in two minutes. This time, his hattrick failed to save France. However, the 24-year-old Mbappé could help France win the World Cup in future.

Now, it is time to congratulate Argentina, and to give credit to Messi. Well played Leo, well done Argentina!

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